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SCUDDAR
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SCUDDAR Chapters 001 & 002
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SCUDDAR Chapters 021 & 022
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SCUDDAR Chapters 027 & 028

SCUDDAR

Chapter 21

The dining room was filled with the happy sounds of loud chatter and laughter. The clones sat together at one table talking and sipping an alcoholic drink the Neumites called salala. The walls of the dining room were covered with blooms of flowers that filled the room with their heady scent. The tables were laden with varieties of fruits and vegetables of which everyone partook.

The noisy chatter dwindled to silence as Meehun stood up to address the revelers.

"Today is the anniversary of our escape from the Scuddar. We have reason to rejoice but we will never forget those that were consumed all those years ago. As we celebrate, let us also have them in our mind. Let us remember the emptiness that slowly crept into our mind as those that perished went from us one by one at an ever-increasing rate. Let us remember the horror and loneliness we felt although we, the survivors, had each other.

"Let us remember those that resisted for so long and helped us even though they were doomed. Remember how they kept contact with our mind until their resistance failed them. Without them, we would never have learned how to monitor the movements of the Scuddar or learn of its plans. Without they help we would never have been able to stay free.

"As we celebrate, let us also rejoice that our alien friends have joined forces with us to rid the universe of the threat of the Scuddar. They have left their world to aid us. They have made a sacrifice and left their own kind to be with us.

"Now, continue the celebrations." Meehun sat down again as the room gradually filled once more with chatter and laughter.

Trevor blocked his mind from his six companions and stared into the bowl that contained his drink. Of the seven clones, he was the one that had made the greatest sacrifice. The other six had never had the chance to experience life on Earth. They never made any friends they had to leave behind. They had never fallen in love as he had with Gina. He became lost in his own thoughts.

The Neumites had scoured the minds of the clones for three days searching for any clues the Scuddar may have given as to the whereabouts of its seed. They had found one conclusive location of the most advanced seed. A further four days passed while the Neumites searched for the world and the seed. They found the world but only an approximate position of the seed.

Tomorrow, the clones will leave Neum to seek out the seed and destroy it. Neegon had told them the world on which the seed was growing had a primitive species that had limited intelligence. The Neumites did not know to what extent, if any, the Scuddar seed had attacked the species.

"Our preliminary examination shows the alien species is continuing its activities so perhaps the Scuddar has not attacked yet." Neegon had explained.

Trevor stirred from his thoughts and looked around the table. Adrian was having a discussion with Michelle that both seemed deeply engrossed in. Charles was bringing peals of laughter from the others with jokes that seemed to flow from him non-stop. The wine was loosening the tension brought on by the intensive learning and training they had undergone the past few weeks.

He stood up and announced that he was returning to his room.

"I just feel a little tired," he said in reply to their questions. "You carry on having fun." He touched a button on his belt and was immediately transported to his home.

He stood for a long time looking out of the window at the stars. He recognised none of the constellations and knew he wouldn’t see the sun that Earth orbited but he searched anyway. Somewhere out there Sol was a point of light. Somewhere out here Gina lived and breathed.

Trevor thought about the relationship they had enjoyed. They had met at a party celebrating the anniversary of the birth of the first World Government. He and Gordon had gone to the party together with the intent to see which of them would snare a girl to sleep with first. The bet was that the loser would buy all drinks for a week.

Within minutes of entering the party, he saw Gina sitting with three of her friends and decided she would be the one he would sleep with that night. He had asked her to dance with him and she accepted. From that moment on, Trevor knew he had lost the bet with Gordon. Gina was different from the other girls he had had before and he wanted to get to know everything about her. Gina also seemed very interested in him. They had dated at every opportunity and Trevor fell in love for the first time. He remembered when he told her of his love for her, her smile was radiant and she told him she loved him also. They made love that night beneath a full moon in one of the few public gardens in the city.

Trevor turned away from the window, undressed and flopped onto his bed. The next morning he would be on a planet of one of those stars he had been gazing at. He should rest.

He lay for a few hours tossing and turning but sleep evaded him and he gave up trying and stared at the ceiling.

"Are you awake?" The whisper was just a brush across the surface his mind. It was Michelle.

"Yes." He replied.

"Me too. I can’t sleep," Michelle said. "All the others are sleeping soundly."

"My mind is too active to sleep," said Trevor. "I’ve just been lying here thinking."

"About tomorrow?"

"That and other things." There was a pause before Michelle answered.

"Gina?"

"Gina too." There was another longer pause.

"Want some company? I’ve got some of that salala." This time it was Trevor that paused before replying.

"I won’t try to seduce you. I promise." Michelle said. Trevor sensed the humour in her mind.

"Sure, why not?" Trevor said. "Shall I come there or you here?"

"I’ll come to you," answered Michelle. "I need the practice transporting."

A few seconds later Trevor heard the popping sound of her arrival in the lounge below. He pulled on his pants and went down the stairs. Michelle was standing in the middle of the room with a bowl in each hand. Trevor guessed they contained salala. She was still wearing the dress she wore at the celebration. It was a red, figure-hugging dress made to her specifications by the Neumites. Trevor mentally complimented her on her dress designing abilities.

Trevor accepted the bowl she held out to him and invited her to sit down. She chose the couch and curled her legs up onto it. Trevor smiled. He had always wondered why women sat like that on couches while men never do. He chose an armchair facing her and raised his bowl.

"To success," he said, taking a sip of the salala wine.

"To success," echoed Michelle. Then she added, "Whatever that may be."

"Are you worried about tomorrow?" asked Trevor.

"Not really. I’m worried about you." She smiled and took another sip of wine.

"Me? Why?" Trevor frowned. His curiosity showing on his face.

"You’ve been pretty subdued since Gina left," answered Michelle. "I know you must miss her a lot but you have to get over it. Don’t let it affect your reactions tomorrow."

Trevor thought about what she had said. Had it been so obvious that he was feeling sorry for himself? He recalled that the last week the clones had more or less left him alone. Even at the celebration they just attended they had been talking and joking among themselves while he was deep in thought.

"Don’t worry. Nothing is going to affect my reactions if there is any danger."

Michelle studied his face. Trevor had the impression she wanted to ask him something but was reluctant to approach the subject.

"What are you thinking now?" he asked, attempting to get her to say what she wanted. She laughed. Her white teeth contrasting against the red of her lips and her cheeks turning pink. Trevor never thought he would ever see Michelle embarrassed.

"You’d think I was silly if I told you." She looked down and picked an imaginary hair or lint from her dress and tossed it away.

"Tell me," Trevor replied. Michelle looked at him hard debating whether to proceed, then made up her mind.

"We don’t get much chance to talk one on one with each other so I hold back a lot of what I want to say or ask," she began. "I joke along with the other guys because I know what they are thinking." She fell silent and rubbed her ankle. Trevor watched her slender fingers stroking her skin. Even in such an absent-minded action her sensuality was evident.

"Go on," encouraged Trevor.

She looked up, her face now serious as she studied his eyes. "I don’t like being me!" she blurted out. "I wish I were like Angela or Stephanie. Not me."

Michelle’s sudden confession was unexpected and Trevor’s surprise showed. Michelle’s eyes fixed on his as she searched for any indication that he would laugh at her. She didn’t see amusement in them.

"Michelle, you are a lovely woman. You have qualities that most women of Earth would give anything to have," Trevor said.

"On Earth, maybe. Here they are not really assets. I am different. You shouldn’t have chosen me for this mission."

Trevor considered Michelle’s words. He hadn’t known what the personalities of the clones would be when he chose them. He was more concerned about their usefulness for the mission.

"Do you want to go back to Earth?" he asked.

"No! I just wish I was not me." She replied. "The spires intrigue me and I want to know how they work once this mission is over."

"That is why I chose you. I only had twenty-four clones to choose from and you seemed to have the better skills to understand the spires."

"Who would have thought a physicist would have a horny personality?" Michelle laughed. "I guess I’ll never know what love is. I mean love not lovemaking!"

"I had a feeling you and Adrian were getting along fine."

"Adrian’s nice but there is nothing between us. I think I scare him!" Michelle laughed again. Trevor laughed with her. Adrian was the biggest of all the clones. He stood over an inch taller than the rest and had muscles any man would be proud to have. To imagine him scared of Michelle was amusing.

"I certainly scare Joseph. He’s the type that would prefer a demure little woman that would scream at the sight of a cockroach."

"And Charles?" asked Trevor. He found it amusing that Michelle had already summed the male clones up in her mind.

"Charles is definitely Stephanie’s type. I think she is his type too. It wouldn’t surprise me if they start getting really interested in each other," Michelle said confidently. She looked at Trevor with her head tilted to one side and raised an eyebrow. "That leaves the older and mysterious Trevor. The only one among us that has experienced love."

Trevor laughed out loud. "There’s nothing mysterious about me," he said. "I’m an open book, as the saying goes."

Michelle swung her legs off the couch and leaned toward him, her arms resting on her knees and her eyes bright. "Tell me about love, Trevor. How do you know when you are in love?"

Trevor shrugged and his eyes searched the floor as if the answer would spring up in front of him.

"I don’t know. How can one explain it? You are attracted to someone and love grows. You just know you are in love."

Michelle leaned back, a little disappointed. "I’m attracted to you. Does that mean I will grow to love you? What if the other person doesn’t love you back?"

Michelle’s outspoken questions embarrassed Trevor. For a moment he was at a loss for words. "I guess it just won’t work out if the love is not returned," he said. "They have to go their separate ways. One of them gets hurt."

Michelle nodded thoughtfully, then stood up.

"I had better be going. Tomorrow is a big day," she said. "Thanks for talking to me."

"We should talk more another time," replied Trevor. He went to her and gave her a hug.

Michelle touched a button on her belt and vanished.

 

Chapter 22 

 

"We will all stay together when we get there. Once we are there we will decide how to proceed with the search," said Trevor. "Stay away from any of the inhabitants if you can. We don’t want to chance upsetting them."

The clones were assembled in one of the community buildings ready to be transported to the world where the Scuddar seed was believed to be. The Neumites had informed them that the world’s sun was hotter than Ladra, the sun which Neum orbited, so they had dressed in shorts and shirts made for them by the Neumites. They had also fashioned strong footwear for the humans, as the terrain was rocky in most areas.

They crowded together under the spire and Trevor deftly tapped the control panel. Seconds later they were standing amid large igneous rocks beneath a blazing sun. They looked around surveying the scene. To one side was what appeared to be an extinct volcano.

"Not very picturesque," observed Charles.

"I think the Scuddar prefers desolate places," replied Trevor, remembering the red planet where he first came in contact with the Scuddar.

"No sign of any life," contributed Adrian. "What do we do now?"

"Spread out and start looking. Look for anything that looks like a dome or looks like a smaller version of the Scuddar on Neum," replied Trevor. "Watch for any yellow threads, too," he added as an afterthought. He wondered if they would be able to see the Scuddar on this planet. The one he attacked on the red planet had been invisible at first.

They spread out in a widening circle. An hour later they were out of sight of each other.

"Has anyone seen anything yet?" Angela’s thought came into their minds.

"All I’ve seen is a couple of small creatures like some kind of reptile," said Joseph.

"I’ve seen them." Stephanie’s thought came to them.

"I’ve seen nothing," said Adrian. "Do you think we are wasting time?"

"Hey! I saw a bunch of those reptiles," said Charles. "All dead, though."

"Skeletons?" asked Michelle. "I just went through a big area of small skeletons."

"No, not skeletons," replied Charles. "Just dried up carcasses."

"Wait!" said Trevor. "These could be the creatures the Scuddar weaned on. Michelle, where are you?"

"Just on the other side of the volcano," Michelle replied.

"We’re coming over to you." Trevor ordered the others to join Michelle then scrambled up the low volcano to its summit. It was filled with rocks and rubble. It had obviously been extinct for a long time.

"Probably exploded thousands of years ago and collapsed into itself."

Trevor turned to see Joseph had joined him. He looked at the area around the volcano. From the higher viewpoint he could see rocks were strewn for miles around. Searching the area would take weeks, maybe months, as they didn’t know exactly what they were looking for.

Joseph bent down and picked up a bone and snapped it in two. "There’s plenty of these bones around but they are not new. They are dry and brittle."

"But it’s strange they are mostly in this area," replied Trevor. "The seed could be near here." He called to the other clones that had joined Michelle. "Search all around the volcano but be careful."

The group systematically searched fruitlessly for three hours. Trevor was just about to call of the search for the day when Stephanie’s voice whispered in his head.

"I just saw something move."

"A reptile?"

"No, something bigger. It’s hiding behind a rock," Stephanie answered. "I was just having a pee when I saw it move out of the corner of my eye."

"A voyeur," joked Charles.

"Very funny! What do I do, Trevor?"

"Back away and keep your eyes on it," said Trevor. "I’m coming over to you." He began running in the direction he knew Stephanie had been searching.

"Hey! There are two of them. One’s hurling rocks at me!" Stephanie’s alarmed voice sounded in their minds.

"Get out of there!" Trevor commanded. "They may be the primitives! We don’t want to fight with them."

He saw Stephanie running toward him and waited for her, keeping his eye on the rocks behind her for any sign of the creatures. Small rocks were arcing from three directions and falling around Stephanie as she ran dodging from side to side and leaping over obstacles in her way. Trevor caught a brief glimpse of one of the creatures as it stepped from its cover to hurl a rock. It ducked back before he could get a good look at it but he saw it stood on two legs and had four arms and had a large head.

Stephanie, panting with exertion, ran past him without stopping. Trevor turned and followed her; catching her up and keeping pace with her. They reached the volcano and scrambled up the slope to the top. Stephanie stood bent over, her hands on her knees and gasping for breath.

"All of you come back to the volcano," ordered Trevor. "Watch out for any ambush."

Charles was the first back. "You okay, Steph?" he asked, genuinely concerned. Stephanie sat down and nodded, still panting.

"Where did they come from?" she asked. "They weren’t here before."

The other clones joined them one by one.

"They’re all around us," said Adrian. "Maybe thirty of them. Unusually large heads."

"Doesn’t large heads indicate great intelligence?" asked Angela. "Like big brains?"

"Who knows with aliens?" Michelle chirped in. "Could be all bone and a small brain."

"Their bodies were brown shiny," Joseph contributed. "Were they naked or was it armour? Maybe the big heads are helmets."

"We need to get back to Neum," said Trevor. "We don’t want a battle with the creatures we are trying to save from the Scuddar."

"Good idea! They are closing in," announced Adrian.

"Let’s leave," said Trevor. "Go now!" They all touched the buttons on their belts that would return the to Neum.

 

"The Scuddar showed unusual activity while you were gone," Meehun informed the clones after they had refreshed themselves. "We think it can communicate with its seed."

"We haven’t found the seed yet," said Trevor. "We don’t know where it is located."

"Maybe it knew we were there, though," said Michelle.

Angela drummed her fingers on the table. "Do you think it could somehow get those primitives to attack us?" she asked. "Maybe we were getting too close and it sent a message of some kind. Maybe by thought transference."

"Maybe, maybe, maybe! We need something definite." Trevor exclaimed.

"I think we need to make contact with the natives," said Joseph. Get into their minds if possible and see if we can get any clues."

Charles turned to Meehun. "How many natives are there on that planet?"

"About twelve thousand scattered over the continent," replied Meehun

"There were only about thirty that attacked us," commented Charles.

"So? What are you thinking?" Trevor asked.

Charles ran his fingers through his hair then spread his hands and shrugged. "It was just a thought but what if the Scuddar seed could control those closest to it?"

"You mean without absorbing them?" Trevor’s eyes narrowed. The Neumites had been able to control him. It was possible the Scuddar could do the same with the natives. "Then we need to make contact with the natives that are not close to that area."

"But they wouldn’t know where the seed was," said Stephanie. "What would be the point?"

"The point is, if we can befriend them, we could enlist their help in finding the Scuddar," said Trevor. "Maybe they could get some information from the natives that attacked us."

"The greatest number of natives are in the north of the continent. There are many tribes there." Meehun informed them. "You were in the south-west."

"Do they have leaders? Chiefs?" queried Adrian.

"All tribes have leaders," answered Meehun.

The discussion continued until it was finally decided they would attempt to contact one of the smaller tribes in the north of the continent the following day.